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Art vs Craft

I was surfing the web like you do, and came across a link to my old college at Woverhampton where I studied Sculpture back in the 80’s. One of my old tutors on there was a wonderful stone carver, John (Paddy) Paddison, who studied under John Skeaping.( Barbara Hepworth’s first husband, Skeaping was a gifted horseman and taught Sculpture at the RCA. he eventually retired at the age of 80 to the Camargue where he rode and broke in cattle!)

'Paddy'

 

The reason I think of Paddy when there is always a debate about the craft or Fine Art forms of Painting/Sculpture versus ‘Conceptualised’ art form , is that at college he was very much seen as the old guard of the art school. Tutors then were very much promoting the ethos of concept art.Ideas were more important than learning the craft of painting or sculpture. I think their thinking was that if you could produce ideas, there were always technicians available to create your work, without the student learning techniques to a high standard, perhaps when time was at a premium, I don’t know.. It’s always been a contentious issue of debate, I have always thought that it is important to have the two forms of craft and art being side by side. What do you all think?

 

Anyway, back to Paddy. He  had his stone carving area in the yard downstairs in the Molyneux, in the plein air style..and my first year I opted for a module in stone carving..the only time this module was available was in February, in the freezing cold and open to the elements. I think Paddy thought that if we were keen then we would man up and keep carving through hail, rain and snow..which of course we did. He was a great teacher, always there to give a suggestion just when you needed it, and encouragement. I brought my greyhound in one day and he spent ages just looking at her and describing her lines and athletic build. It wasnt until later that I had the opportunity to see his wonderful work.

‘Flaying’ John Paddison-Stonecarving

I suppose the question I am asking is, where does art begin and craft stop..and what is the nature of craft? To my mind, someone like Paddy had both in equal measure. he had superb ability in making and fabricating techniques, which were acquired over a period of 40 years plus. he also had vision, and original ideas, and managed to use his material, in his case, stone to mould his ideas into a physical entity.

Working with textiles is very similar it seems to me. There has to be an understanding of,  and practical application of, techniques, a sympathy towards the materials we work with, and originality of thought in designing and creating pieces.

 

It’s so hard to master..I find just as I think I am getting the hang of Free Motion Quilting on the Janome, but so often, it seems to slip away and I am using the stitch ripper again – or my points dont measure up or basically I am having a really bad hair day regarding design and how things fit together. I know it all takes time and loads of practice, so hopefully, one day the lightbulb will go on! As I have started to get more involved with quilting, I am finding there is so much variety out there in the way people make and design quilts, from very traditional bed quilts  to wonderful art forms that are exhibited internationally. But all of them have that magic symbiosis of craft and art working together.

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